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Hi. I'm Peter, and this is Go Verb a Noun. 

VidCon. Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Crash Course. Project for Awesome. Sexplanations. SciShow. Subbable. Animal Wonders. DFTBA Records. 2D-Glasses. EcoGeek. Vlogbrothers. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

What do all of these things have in common? Besides being totally cool? Hank Green.

Hank Green does a lot of different things. But today he's going to talk to us about business and ethics. Two ideas that don't necessarily always get associated with educational content on YouTube, but perhaps they should.

So, let's check it out.


 Hank Green Intro

I'm Hank Green. H-A-N-K-G-R-E-E-N. That's how they always make you spell it when you do interviews. And I, uh, I make videos for the internet. I make educational videos -- the majority of the videos that I make are educational.

Sometimes they're just funny and weird.

But I started out with the Vlogbrothers channel, which is the funny and weird stuff. And then over the last few years, we've been working on SciShow and Crash Course.

Crash Course being a video program that focuses on teaching people college/high-school-level things: science and humanities, history, biology, and chemistry, and literature, and we . . . mix it up.

And then SciShow is just focused on what's happening in the world of science at the moment. Whether that's news, or it can just be talking about things that have happened that maybe people don't really understand. And we do like four of those a week on SciShow and two more on SciShow Space.

So there's lots of content. And I also sort of administer the production side of things here in Missoula, where we make half of Crash Course and all of SciShow. 


 Openness and transparency

Peter: Let's talk about openness and transparency.

Hank: I think that being open about what we do and how we do it is an important piece of our business because a lot of our business is funded by our audience. And, like, they give us money, and so we better, like, one: use it wisely; and two: it's best if they know where it's going. 

And it can be kind of crazy when you think about how much money you can spend on content. Like, you know, sometimes I've quoted people the amount of money that we're going to spend on a show. And I think it's astronomically high, and they're super excited about how cheap it is! And that's a constant thing that I run into.

Because when you're dealing with television and movies, like, you can easily spend ten thousand, twenty thousand, thirty thousand a minute on content. And, you know, that's not how much money we spend. But that number has gone up a lot for us as we started doing really nice animations with Thought Cafe and, you know, we want to make sure that we can pay our employees fairly. And, like, you know, make this content great and continue to pay living wages and stuff.

So. We get a lot of money from our audience, and I think sometimes they can be like, "Where's all that money going?" And I think it helps to be able to tell them. 

And as far as other transparency, like being fairly open with my life and being like, "This is my office and these are the people that work at my office." I think that that's not something that everyone is going to be interested in, but I that the people who are going to be interested in it, like, those people matter more to me. Like, they're the people who help support us, who are really interested in us as a story, and like, the way that I'm interested in this whole enterprise as a story.

And that we have, like,  Matthew Gaydos at the warehouse talking about how the warehouse works and what's going on at the warehouse. And behind him IS the warehouse, and he's our customer support guy and also, you know, he puts things in packages and sends them to people. 

And like, to understand that it's all just people doing the thing. Instead of the attempt to make this a shiny box that just sort of poops out beautiful things, and don't think about what's inside the box. Eh, I'm not interested in that. Like, I like the idea of knowing what's in the box. 


 Using fame for good

Peter: Let's talk about using fame for good.

Hank: The motivation behind caring more broadly about what we do with our audience was . . . I there were a couple of things.

One: I did the math one day and determined that people had spent a full human lifetime watching our videos. And, you know, the amount of stuff that a human gets done in a life -- the amount of good works and connections -- and like, was that equal to the amount of good stuff that had been done because of our videos. Or during, watching our videos. 

And that was a legitimate concern to me. I didn't want to, like, go around eating up human life spans and not pumping out anything worthwhile. So, there's that. 

And then I think secondarily, like . . . Or maybe this is primarily, it's just cool. You know? It's one thing to make content and have people love it, and that's extremely rewarding. But then to make  content and have people love it, and then have them want to do something with you. Have them want to collaborate with each other and with, you know, the sort of like amorphous thing that is Nerdfighteria. That's more fun. It's more exciting. It's more interesting. 

You know, we did an Arbor Day thing on my birthday where people planted trees, and like, that was five years ago. So some of those trees are probably pretty big now. And, like, that's neat! 

The idea that content can be more than content. And it can be connection. That's just cooler. Just more interesting. And I loved that we had that opportunity. 

And I was also very much informed by the content and the work that Ze Frank did during his show -- or, The Show-- which overlapped by three months with our making of YouTube videos. He was always an idol, and the stuff that he did was so interesting and cool, and how he brought a group of people together to do interesting stuff. It seemed like that was always part of our goal. 


 Community in business

Peter: How do you get other businesses to buy into the idea that, "what's good for the community is ultimately good for business?"

Hank: Well, I mean, it depends on the business. It's like, not every business is built in a way that you have to have this core of strong community of people to have your business be successful. A lot of businesses are business-to-business businesses.

But like, you know, you look at advertisements and you see that Coca-Cola is really about making people feel like they're a part of something by drinking sugar water. You know? And like, that's a weird sentiment for anyone to accept, but we do. Um, advertising is very powerful. 

I think businesses know that, but the question is, is there a role for legitimacy of connection. And legitimacy of community. Instead of just, here -- let's make people feel like they're part of something. Instead it's like, here -- let's actually have people be part of something. 

But I will say that it's work. And it's complicated. And it also is a little bit like I have a board of directors composed of 200,000 different people who have very differing interests. And that's a hard responsibility to take on, but I think that it makes everything we do better. And I'm kinda proud of it. 

It's a weird value proposition for a lot of people because you look at it and you're like, "That sounds like a LOT of hassle." But for us, that connection with our community is, like, the most valuable thing we have. And it allows us to do so many cool things. But, like, most businesses aren't set up like that. 

And the other thing is most businesses are set up to do a specific thing. They find a need and they fill that need. Whereas we are kind of set up, like, what does this community allow us to do? What is an idea that they will get behind that we can get behind, and that we can all sort of be a part of together?

Having that asset, it's a very different asset than most businesses have. I don't think that we created it as, like, we didn't intend for it to be a business asset -- but it is. But it's only an asset in as much as we can't, say, "Okay now we're going make a sugar water company." Unless we had some way of making that the sort of thing that Nerdfighteria would be super into.

So we can only sort of . . . It's really cool because it's a self-regulating pile of usefulness. I don't how to say that. It's a self-regulating group of usefulness, but they'll only help out with projects that resonate with their values. 

They want the same things we do, but also they prevent us from doing things that would make lots of money but wouldn't be good. It's hard to do that in business when you don't have those incentives.

The normal business incentive is money. That's pretty much it. Um, there's also like, there's gotta be some values in there. And there's also like, how happy do you wanna be?

But to have the primary incentive not be money is weird. And it really IS for us. Purely because the audience is the value, and so we can't think of money first. It's like an impossibility for our business. Which is neat.

We have this thing that we can do cool things with. But we literally can't do uncool things with. Even if they would make piles of money! They would never help us out with those things. 

It's like suddenly there's . . . the economic incentive isn't there in the same way as we a social incentive and a values incentive. So, like, to go after the values means that while we're not going to create Google or Facebook or anything, we can make things that are really valuable for the world and help employ people and create excitement in our community. And that's very exciting. 

And it's really weird, too. It's just not something that a lot of businesses deal with. So we're solving new sets of problems which is exciting. 



Peter: What is the motivation behind your entrepreneurship?

Hank: So here's a weird thing: When you're a professional creator, eventually you get bored.

Even if you're doing really amazing, like, creative things that hundreds of thousands, that millions of people are watching. And that's kind of terrible, but I think that it's just a human thing. And I've watched it happen to a lot of people.

It's never really happened to me. And I didn't realize why, until I realized that creating business was my alternate form of creation. 

So, like, Vlogbrothers doesn't get boring to me because I have all of these other creative outlets that are different. And then, like, going back to that feels like, "Ahh, this thing! This thing is . . . I know how to do this, and this is great!" And, like, it has it's own different, interesting creativeness. And then over here, there's business which is a whole separate set of muscles that you're stretching.

Like, you have employees and you have to understand what they want out of working for you. And you're being influenced by them. The same way that I'm being influenced by my audience creatively when I'm making a video, I'm influenced by my employees creatively when I'm making business decisions.

And I have to make sure that I know what motivates them. And like, different things motivate different people. Like, I know what motivates me, but imagining that other people are like me turns out to be disastrous. And so you have to . . . All of this more complicated empathy gets involved. 

Running a business is . . . it's a very creative thing. It requires a huge amount of thinking. And trying new things. And crossing your fingers. And throwing ideas out. 

And so the same way that a lot of YouTube creators might go and, like, do some TV work or, like, do an album or something. My big creative, alternate creative enterprise, has been business.

And also, like, I just am really into doing it differently because obviously business is a huge . . . I looked out the window at, like, the buildings, you know. Business is just such as integral part of the American mythology.

And also how the world happens. You know, how my Dr. Pepper got to me. And how this camera got made. And how you flew on an airplane to get here. Like, all those things function because of capitalism, and because of how money moves around, and financing and that weird stuff. And so it's really fun to be able to do it and also bring my own perspective to it. 

It's a creative endeavor for me. And I didn't realize that that's the need that I was filling until way after I started doing it. But that's the need I'm filling.

And it functions well because I never get tired of anything I do. Because there's always so much else going on that even when I've been doing something for seven years -- I would never have done anything for as long as I've done Vlogbrothers. That still seems always new and vital, and the way that the audience is connecting with it is different. And it's growing, and it seems like it's had a time line.

It's always different and it's always the same. It always feels comfortable, but it always feels exciting.

I think that part of that is that I'm not spending all of my time concentrating on that thing. Because otherwise, I think maybe it would start feeling that way to me. 

Yeah, I mean I have found that at this point I don't even get bored anymore. I am making a new thing before I even recognize that it's happening. 

And like, that moment where I realize that I'm focusing on a new idea, and I'm like, "Am I crazy right now?" Because, like, I have so much other stuff to do. But then if I analyze it, it's like, no, I'm not crazy because I need a new thing. Or else I'm going to get sick of all the old things. 



Peter: Do you ever worry about burnout?

Hank: Um, I worried more about burnout before I had money to hire employees. Now I worry about my employees burning out. 

My wife Catherine is very good at sensing when I'm (because I'm not very good at this) -- at sensing when I am going overboard, and letting me know. So there are times when I've taken on new things when it's been too much.

But now, for the most part, I'm able to reach out and try and find people who are really good at that thing. Who are better at it than I am. Who I can trust to do it. And like, at the end of the day it's just amazing to see something that I would have done two years ago, see it gets done and I had nothing to do with it happening. But it's better than the thing I would have done. That's the best. Yeah.



Peter: Now I'd like to read to you guys a quote from Mr. Rogers which I think is particularly applicable here: 

"Fame is a four-letter word. And like tape or zoom or face or pain or life or love, what ultimately matter is what we do with it. I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. It doesn't matter what our particular job; we are chosen to help meet the deeper needs of those who watch and listen day and night. We all have only one life to live on Earth, and through television  we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or cherish it in creative and imaginative ways."

I think Hank Green has done an awesome job at doing the latter, and so next week we're going to pick up where we left off. And he's going to tell us a little bit about what went into the Nerdfighteria Census and what came out of it. 

So, stay tuned. Thanks for caring, and I will see you next time. 

And by the way, if you have not heard, I do have a Patreon account that I just started up. So if you see value in what I've done, go check it out, maybe throw some money at me. But you don't have to. It's just out there. You just do what feels right. 

Alright guys, I'll talk to you later. Bye.